By Sarah-Jane Tasker
Australia needs to separate the issue of energy productivity from the climate change debate and follow the lead of the US and have a bipartisan approach to double energy productivity by 2030.
With Australia lagging its major global competitors on energy productivity, a group of high-level experts will meet in Sydney this week to agree on a road map to double energy productivity by 2030 in an effort to mirror the US.
Jon Jutsen, chairman of the Australian Alliance to Save Energy, who will chair the opening session of the forum, said the issue had not been a national priority from government or industry. He said it was unfortunate that energy efficiency and energy productivity had been seen as a sidebar to the climate agenda and as a result had unnecessarily become embroiled in a highly partisan debate.
“There is a high level of bipartisanship in the US despite the obvious rancour around climate policy,” he said. “We have not managed to replicate that here. It has been unfortunately dragged into the climate debate and we want to put it back on to the centre of the economic agenda.”
Kateri Callahan, president of the US Alliance to Save Energy, who will speak at this week’s conference, recommends that the two major parties in Australia take a “no regrets” approach to the issue. “Look at how you can improve the economy and use less energy, because that is going to save dollars and free up dollars,” she said from the US ahead of her visit to Australia.
“When you’re doing that, you’re having a climate benefit. You don’t have to do it in the name of climate.”
Ms Callahan said that approach would appeal equally to conservatives and liberals and climate deniers and believers, because the issue was being tackled on the basis of improving the economy. “There is a lot of reasons to do these things and you don’t even have to have the climate discussion,” she said.
If the US achieved its goal of doubling energy productivity by 2030, it would create 1.3 million new jobs and save $US327 billion ($353bn) a year — which meant a saving of more than $US1000 a month for the average family.
Mr Jutsen said Australia had not done nearly enough on energy efficiency and energy productivity and was falling behind its competitors. “We have low energy productivity now and it’s increasing at only half the rate of our competitors,” he said.
If the government and industry did not drive initiatives to improve energy productivity, he said, Australia would continue to lose out to its global competitors. “We will become too expensive a place to manufacture, consumer costs will continue to increase and we’ll find it more and more difficult to compete and attract new business to Australia because of our high cost base.”
This article was originally published in The Australian